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20 important questions to ask when volunteering


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  • 1. 20 Important Questions to Ask When Volunteering Debbie Ray, CVA Certified Volunteer Administrator
  • 2. Things to Consider First?
    • What are You looking for…..?
    • How “healthy” is the Agency?
    • Whose managing the program? (ie. Volunteer Manager, Coordinator, Director, …….)
  • 3. Looking at YOU first………………..
    • Basic Level: Self-serving drive
    • Secondary Level: Relational drive
    • Highest Level: Belief drive
  • 4. What are you looking for……?
    • Achievement
    • Recognition and feedback
    • Personal growth
    • Giving something back
    • Bringing about social change
    • Family ties
    • Friendship, support, bonding and a feeling of belonging
  • 5. Turn offs to volunteering…….
    • Disorganized management
    • Lack of board support
    • Staff indifference
    • Limited training and orientation
    • Lack of contact and support
    • Wrong assignment
    • Perks that are withdrawn
    • Insufficient funding
  • 6. Have a clear understanding of what your motivation to volunteer is…..
    • What do I want to do that meets both mine and the agencies’ needs?
    • How often can I give my time?
    • How does my volunteer job fit into the big picture?
  • 7. Agency Mission, Vision & Values
    • What is the mission/vision/values of the organization and is it compatible with my beliefs/needs, etc.
  • 8. Clear Planning and Allocation of Resources
    • Is the program/manager organized?
    • Is the volunteer program part of the overall agency operating/strategic plan?
    • Goals and objectives are clear?
    • Does the volunteer program have an operating budget built into the overall agency budget?
    • If not, who/how is the volunteer program funded?
    • Do volunteers fund the program?
    • Do I have to pay for my volunteer uniform, t-shirt, badge, etc.?
    • Are you expected to donate both funds and time to the program?
    • Is there a designated area/work station for volunteers
    • Does the volunteer program have the equipment and supplies it needs to operate?
    • Have you seen a recent annual report, financial statements, Non profit’s 990 form,
  • 9. Effective Policies and Procedures
    • Is there a “Policy Manual” for the volunteer program and when was it last updated?
    • Are there clear directions on the “dos and don’ts” of the program?
    • What are my limitations as a volunteer?
    • Can I be terminated?
    • Do I have grievance rights?
    • Do I sign a confidentiality agreement?
    • Is there a waiver form the agency requires me to sign in order to volunteer?
  • 10. Clear and meaningful WRITTEN Assignments
    • Are there job descriptions/assignments/services/agreements/ etc. for every volunteer position?
    • If not, why…..?
    • Are you clear on what it is you are expected to do/not do while volunteering?
    • Are job descriptions reviewed and revised periodically?
    • What am I liable for if I do something that’s not in the job description?
    • Do I know who my direct supervisor will be while I’m volunteering?
    • Do I know who to go to if my direct supervisor is not available?
    • Is there a retention process in place to retain volunteers
  • 11. Creative and Target Marketing/Recruitment
    • Who makes up the volunteer corps?
    • Does it reflect the demographics of the community?
    • Is there a Public Relations department/manager?
    • Have there been any “stories” circulating about the agency either rumors or publically?
    • How will my involvement in the agency be used for promotion? (ie. Photos, stories, testimonials, TV, etc.)
    • Are the current volunteer brochures, newsletters, fliers, etc. professional/appealing?
    • How often do you see PR on the agency?
  • 12. Careful Interviewing and Screening of Volunteers
    • What are the requirements and qualifications to get into the program?
    • Does the agency do background checks or polygraph exam?
    • Who pays for this….me or the agency?
    • What are the agency’s guidelines for involving people with a criminal background (misdemeanor vs felony),
    • What other “types” of volunteers can participate in the program? (ie. Court ordered community service, college interns
  • 13. Effective Orientation and Training for Volunteers
    • Is there an orientation and is it organized?
    • Does it cover policies and procedures?
    • Have paid staff been to an orientation/training preparing them to work with volunteers?
    • Who conducts the orientation?
    • Is training offered prior to my taking on a volunteer assignment?
    • Who conducts the volunteer training for specific tasks/duties?
    • Does the agency use current technology for orientation, training, and communications?
    • Are the orientations flexible in their delivery? ( ie., time, location, etc.)
  • 14. Proactive Risk Management
    • Operational volunteers (worker bees):
      • Is there a clear understanding of your liability coverage (ie. Workers compensation, nonpaid employee liability coverage, etc.)
      • Is there a written process in place to report and file a claim
      • Am I covered if I drive a company vehicle
      • Will my personal property/vehicle insurance be responsible?
    • Governance volunteers (thinker bees):
      • Does the agency carry D&O (Directors and Officers) insurance, property/facility coverage, additional liability insurance?
      • How often are these policies reviewed by professionals? (should be annually)
      • Reviewing amounts of coverage so that the agency is not under insured.
      • Can I be sued personally for damages as a board member?
  • 15. Supportive and trained supervision
    • Who does the volunteer coordinator report to in the agency?
    • Are you clear on who you report to in the agency?
    • Does your volunteer coordinator belong to any professional organization?
    • How often do they receive training to enhance their professional growth?
    • What processes are in place to discuss concerns, issues, grievances, etc.?
  • 16. Accurate and Useful Record-keeping and reporting
    • Do you know your current worth as a volunteer?
    • Nationwide $20.25 (Independent Sector – 2009)
    • Arizona $19.25 (Independent Sector - 2009)
    • Is there a mechanism in place to record volunteer hours?
    • How are your volunteer hours used? (ie., grants, $$$, annual reports, etc.)
  • 17. Constructive Evaluation and Feedback
    • Are evaluations conducted for volunteers….annually, 6 months, etc.
    • Do volunteers have a chance to evaluate the volunteer program, volunteer coordinator or agency?
  • 18. Formal and Informal Recognition Program
    • Staff training for working with volunteers
    • What are ways that volunteers are informally thanked in the agency?
      • A “ thank you and we appreciate you” culture is developed by the organization
      • Newsletter recognition
      • Upper management recognizes a special event (birthday, sympathy, congrats cards)
  • 19. Review those 20 questions……
    • What are You looking for…..?
    • What’s the “health” of the Agency?
    • Whose managing the program?
    • Clear Planning & Resources
    • Effective Policies & Procedures
  • 20. Review those 20 questions……
    • Clear & Meaningful Assignments
    • Creative & Target Volunteer Marketing/Recruitment
    • Careful Interviewing & Screening
    • Effective Orientation & Training
    • Proactive Risk Management
  • 21. Review those 20 questions……
    • 11. Supportive Supervision
    • 12. Constructive Evaluation & Feedback
    • 13. Formal & Informal Recognition
    • 14. Is there a “team” feeling when I volunteer?
    • 15. Does my input & participation matter?
  • 22. Review those 20 questions……
    • 16. Am I doing what I was told I would be doing when I volunteer?
    • 17. Are there leadership opportunities for volunteers to develop if they want?
    • 18. Does my volunteering interfere with my family commitments?
    • 19. Am I being asked to do more than should be expected?
  • 23. Review those 20 questions……
    • 20. Are you having fun and are you enjoying yourself?
  • 24. Questions